THE NEW GOLD STANDARD: DESIGN IMPERATIVES OF A NEW AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
DESIGN IMPERATIVE 5: A FOCUS ON THE INDIVIDUAL
Arizona State University is large, and because of our quality we are growing larger. It may seem counterintuitive to imagine that one of the largest universities in the nation could focus on the individual student, but in fact, size is irrelevant to an academic institution. In our case, as demonstrated by the quality of the freshman class we admitted for fall 2002, size is a consequence of the quality of the education we provide. What distinguishes us from other institutions is the extent of our capacity to attend to students as individuals.
Traditional assumptions about teaching and learning are no longer adequate. While listening to a professor lecturing—the “sage on the stage”—is certainly a critical component of a university education, it is but one element. Learning takes place around the clock, and not only in classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. As educators, we must take every advantage of both traditional methods and new approaches that make students an intimate part of the research process and the creative act, bringing an intensity to education that is often lacking. Regardless of our approach or methodology, I propose an institutional commitment to focus on the individual student.
I lament the fact that in most fields teaching methods have not changed over the past 30 years. We need to incorporate new findings on the processes of learning and apply these to our classrooms. We must take every advantage of the new media tools that are the product of the technological advances of the past decade. These allow students to learn individually and through collaboration with others, and to learn at their own pace, sometimes exceeding the parameters of the course.
Consistent with our commitment to focus on the individual is a commitment to enhancing the undergraduate experience with learning in small groups. It has been said that students sometimes learn as much from one another as they do from their professors. ASU will facilitate mechanisms to structure education in small clusters of students wherever practical. This does not mean no large classes—on the contrary, large classes can be among the very best. It means that these classes will be attended by groups of students who are connected—students who are learning together.
In addition to facilitating a focus on the individual student, we must ensure that those quintessential aspects of a university education—the excitement of discovery, the craft of scholarly writing, the precision of research, the appreciation for scientific method, the passion for a discipline—become increasingly embedded in the learning process.
order to focus on the individual, Arizona State University must expand
and contract and redesign all at the same time. On the main campus we
need smaller and more focused programs, and we need more learning groups
within those programs. At the same time we must grow as a university,
so we must accelerate the development of new learner-centered programs
on the West and East
and downtown campuses, each with
their own unique identity. In addition, we need to expand the size and
intensity of our learning environment for our highest-achieving students
so that they might infect us all with their irrepressible energy and enthusiasm.
To do this, we will do many things, but the following three are being
planned and will be implemented as soon as possible.